During the pandemic, sales of tarot cards tripled. Searches for “how to read tarot cards” grew dramatically. Are tarot cards as harmless as many believe?
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Zoom tarot readings became a trend. By the spring of 2021, Christian Dior’s haute couture collection took on an occult motif inspired by tarot cards.
During traumatic times, some people turn to tarot cards for spiritual comfort. But can true comfort be found in tarot cards?
Others turn to tarot cards to understand their minds or higher self. Some think of tarot as a connection to spiritual energy and the realities of the natural world.
With all the occult symbols, are tarot cards safe? The words tarot cards do not appear in the Bible. Does the Bible provide any guidance on tarot cards that can help Christians?
What are tarot cards?
Tarot card decks have 78 cards. There are four suits: wands, swords, cups and coins—similar to the clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds in regular playing cards. Tarot cards have an additional knight card to make 14 cards in a suit. These suits are called the minor arcana.
Tarot cards also have 22 trump cards called the major arcana. The major arcana includes cards like Death, the Devil, the Hanged Man and the Fool.
Arcana means secrets or mysteries. Tarot card readings are performed by dealing the cards in a pattern and interpreting each card’s meaning into a story. These readings are actually a form of fortune-telling or divination with cards, called cartomancy. Divination is seeking the future or hidden knowledge by supernatural means. (See our related article “Astrology: Can Christians Use Horoscopes?”)
How did card games become tarot card readings?
Tarot comes from the Old Italian word tarocchi, which is of unknown origin. Tarot cards evolved from a trick-taking game into spiritual divination with the help of a few famous individuals.
In the 15th century, tarot cards were invented as a card game similar to bridge. The highest card wins the hand. Cards were hand-painted and very expensive.
In 1770 Jean-Baptiste Alliette published a book on divination using his name spelled backward in the title. Etteilla, or a Way to Entertain Yourself With a Deck of Cards gave instructions on divination by assigning meanings to traditional playing cards.
In 1781 Antoine Court (self-declared Court de Gébelin) wrote his famous work The Primeval World, Analyzed and Compared to the Modern World. Volume 8 explored tarot cards. According to Court de Gébelin, all the wisdom of Thoth, the Egyptian god of learning and writing, was distilled into tarot cards.
In 1788 Alliette embraced Court de Gébelin’s Thoth notion and started the Society of Interpreters of the Book of Thoth. Alliette published a deck of cards specifically for divination a year later and then, in 1790, published the book Theoretical and Practical Course in the Book of Thoth. Alliette popularized tarot card readings for fortune-telling. He was the first person known in history to make a living by card divination.
In 1909 William Rider and Arthur Edward Waite invented the modern tarot deck with artwork from Pamela Colman Smith. The deck was published with an explanation of how to read the deck for divination.
By 2021 the tarot cards market was $1.2 billion and predicted to grow at 3 percent annually until 2030. Today tarot cards come in a variety of styles, often decorated with occult creatures and symbols.
What does the Bible say about tarot cards and divination?
The Bible reveals God’s perspective on divination. God commands His people not to practice divination (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). God also explains that He was driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land because of abominations like divination.
Divination is grouped with child sacrifice, sorcery, interpreting omens, witchcraft and mediums as detestable to God.
In the New Testament, fortune-telling and divination are connected with evil spirits. The apostle Paul cast out a demon from a girl “possessed with a spirit of divination . . . who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16). Though there is no indication she used cartomancy, this passage shows that divination was connected to the evil spirit world and is still to be avoided today.
Christians should not associate with divination.
What does the Bible say about Egyptian gods?
Tarot cards glamorize Egyptian gods like Thoth. God is not a fan of pagan gods.
God aimed the 10 plagues of Egypt at the Egyptian gods. For example, Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra. God sent a darkness that was so intense it could be felt for three days (Exodus 10:21-23). Pharaoh believed he was a god, and his firstborn died in the 10th plague (Exodus 11:5). God worked many miracles to release His people from the bondage of Egypt.
(See our article “A Deeper Look at the 10 Plagues” for more information on God’s targeting of Egyptian gods.)
Where is the source of true spiritual knowledge?
In Exodus 20:2-3 God called Egypt a house of bondage and began the 10 Commandments, stating, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Jesus Christ explained that the great commandment (summarizing the first four commandments) is to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
God does not want us to give attention to pagan gods. He even called Himself a jealous God (Exodus 20:5).
God wants a close, loving relationship with us. Having other gods and spiritual sources interferes with our relationship with the true God. God wants us to pray to Him for spiritual knowledge and to seek answers in the Bible. Our God has all spiritual knowledge and is eager to enlighten us with His spiritual truth.
What is so dangerous about tarot cards?
Most tarot card enthusiasts don’t think of themselves as Thoth worshippers. And what is wrong with divination?
God instructs us not to practice divination in Leviticus 19:26. The word in Hebrew gives us a hint at the source of tarot knowledge and energy. Here the Hebrew word for divination is nāḥaš, which means “to hiss.”
The Greek word for divination in Acts 16:16 is python, which in Greek mythology referred to a serpent or dragon that guarded the oracle at Delphi. Divination is from the satanic side of the spirit world.
The allure of spiritual enlightenment is not new. The serpent promised Eve the knowledge of good and evil, which would make one wise (Genesis 3:5-6). But with her choice to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit came separation from God and much sorrow. Turning to tarot cards can also separate us from the true spiritual knowledge of God.
Do tarot cards provide enlightenment into your inner thoughts?
Many people use tarot cards to get to know themselves rather than predict the future. Should tarot cards be used to explore your inner thoughts?
Isaiah 8:19 tells us to seek our God rather than those who whisper and mutter. Each tarot card has multiple meanings, which can produce interpretations similar to vague horoscopes.
Jesus Christ offers something much better. He instructs us to come to Him if we have heavy burdens, so we can find rest (Matthew 11:28). God knows our problems and is willing and able to truly help.
Don’t fall for non-Christian beliefs
Events like the pandemic have led troubled people to seek comfort in tarot cards. Tarot cards are just one segment of the movement away from God. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, the majority of Americans have at least one non-Christian belief, including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics or the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees. (For more information, see our article “The New Age Movement.”)
Such trends are taking people away from God’s clear instructions.
Seeking spiritual information from tarot cards is seeking spiritual information that is prohibited by the one true God. God in His loving wisdom tells us that divination is evil because He wants to protect us from Satan’s influence. Christians should avoid tarot cards and seek God for truth.